Canberra has a plan to make Aussie laws 'technology neutral'

Australian legislative reform promises a more digitally-enabled government that hopes to make it easier for businesses to do business, invest, and create jobs.

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Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has announced the government's legislative reform plan, which will include allowing electronically signed documents and bringing payments into the 21st Century.

He's touted the move as an "economic plan and deregulation agenda". It will see the government commit to modernising laws within the Treasury portfolio so they become technology neutral, he proclaimed.

"This will enable easier communication between businesses, individuals, and regulators," a statement from Frydenberg and Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ben Morton said.

The first phase of reform will include expanding the range of documents that can be validly signed electronically, as well as allowing customers to change their addresses electronically and consent to communication in a more digital-friendly manner.

It will also see the range of documents that can be sent electronically to shareholders increased, and requirements to contact lost shareholders amended; removing prescriptive requirements for notices to be published in newspapers, where suitable alternatives have been identified; and addressing provisions in Treasury legislation where only non-electronic payment options are in place.

"These reforms will reduce the cost of doing business and form part of the government's economic recovery plan, making it easier for businesses to do business, invest, and create jobs now and into the future," the Treasurer said.

Areas up for future reform that Frydenberg said could benefit from greater technology neutrality include communication with regulators, with the example of the conduct of hearings; reducing or removing Treasury portfolio legislation exemptions to the Electronic Transactions Act 1999; and product disclosure and recordkeeping requirements.

Morton touted the legislative reform as cutting red tape for business, consumers, and not-for-profits, and as providing greater opportunity for businesses to benefit from new technologies.

The government intends to finalise legislation dealing with phase one by the end of 2021.

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